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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ethics and Governance AI Fund funnels $7.6M to Harvard, MIT and independent research efforts

Devin Coldewey
Tech Crunch
Originally posted July 11, 2017

A $27 million fund aimed at applying artificial intelligence to the public interest has announced the first targets for its beneficence: $7.6 million will be split unequally between MIT’s Media Lab, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center and seven smaller research efforts around the world.

The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund was created by Reid Hoffman, Pierre Omidyar and the Knight Foundation back in January; the intention was to ensure that “social scientists, ethicists, philosophers, faith leaders, economists, lawyers and policymakers” have a say in how AI is developed and deployed.

To that end, this first round of fundings supports existing organizations working along those lines, as well as nurturing some newer ones.

The lion’s share of this initial round, $5.9 million, will be split by MIT and Harvard, as the initial announcement indicated. Media Lab is, of course, on the cutting edge of many research efforts in AI and elsewhere; Berkman Klein focuses more on the legal and analysis side of things.

The fund’s focuses are threefold:

  • Media and information quality – looking at how to understand and control the effects of autonomous information systems and “influential algorithms” like Facebook’s news feed.
  • Social and criminal justice – perhaps the area where the bad influence of AI-type systems could be the most insidious; biases in data and interpretation could be baked into investigative and legal systems, giving them the illusion of objectivity. (Obviously the fund seeks to avoid this.)
  • Autonomous cars – although this may seem incongruous with the others, self-driving cars represent an immense social opportunity. Mobility is one of the most influential social-economic factors, and its reinvention offers a chance to improve the condition of nearly everyone on the planet — great potential for both advancement and abuse.
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